How important is it to be among the first states in the country to choose a presidential candidate?
Illinois politicians have decided that it might be very important and are putting their legislation where their mouths are, proposing moving the Illinois presidential primary from March to early February, 2008.
The assumption is that the legislation, proposed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the de facto leader of the Illinois Democratic Party, is designed to give Senator Barrack Obama an added bonus in his run for president.
The theory, and it is fairly sound, is that he who wins the early primaries has a better chance to win the nomination for president.
It is definitely true that the front-runner gets more publicity, and usually more campaign money to go with it. With the money, comes the exposure and with the exposure comes yet more votes and more money.
Since I like Obama better than any of the other Democratic candidates, I’m not opposed to the move. Whether it will actually help him against Illinois’ native daughter Hillary Rodham Clinton, I’m not sure, but I like his chances.
Still, I wonder if helping the junior senator is the only thing that Speaker Madigan is after.
Madigan is perhaps the most pragmatic politician I have ever met. He has been referred as the “Silk Razor” by political insiders for his uncanny ability to get what he needs politically while maintaining a virtually untarnished image.
It would not surprise me at all to find that the Speaker is also interested in moving Illinois upward in its national importance. By being the fifth primary to occur, instead one in the middle of the pack, Illinois might be able to recall some of its former glory and importance in picking a national leader.
In recent elections, politicians have given a nod to the state and its 21 electoral votes, and not much more. It no longer matters if it “plays in Peoria”. Illinois has become a solidly Democratic voting block and no one really seems to pay attention anymore.
Madigan’s daughter, Lisa, is the state’s attorney general and many people are looking at her as the next Illinois governor. I wonder if part of his intention is to restore the state to its glory days in preparation for passing the torch to the next generation.
Either way, as an Illinois resident, I see no reason why moving the primary would be a bad idea. Drawing the state into the national spotlight for positive reasons can only be good for the state. Right now, it seems like the only attention the state gets is for its latest scandal or downfall.
Like moving the primary, Obama’s run for the Presidency may be some positive attention for Illinois. At least, I hope so.